For the generation among us who look first to the phone for information, we bring you this non-endorsement diversion. In these times when so much information is at our fingertips, it helps to be able to sort through it all and to understand how it might be useful. But of course nothing tops the original writings, in parchment and ink.
Sefaria, a website and an app co-founded by Brett Lockspeiser (technologist) and Joshua Foer (author of Moonwalking with Einstein), offers the original books and English translations of traditional Jewish texts in fully searchable format, and also offers a “source sheet” space in which scholars can offer their own research and observations. The site has about 1.7 million links of references and commentaries. The founders got foundation assistance to purchase access to copyrights, and then set the information free on the internet for all to use. On the front page of Sefaria.org, one may select from a menu of the ages: Tanakh, Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, Halakhah, Kabbalah, Liturgy, Philosophy, and “more.” It is especially useful for those studying Daf Yomi, the daily Talmud study which just began again from the beginning.
In accepting an honor from Hebrew College in New York, they said, “Sefaria is a technology project, but everything we’ve built and aspire to build in the future is a reflection of what Torah is and how it works. Torah is rooted and generative; polyvocal and interconnected; expansive and interpersonal. Our mission is to make Torah alive and resonant in the world, but we clearly can’t accomplish this mission alone…” and went on to encourage the students present to become rabbis, hazzans, and teachers to carry forward the work.
There are other educational sites, as well. Probably you have accessed at least one of them. PocketTorah and its related PocketTrope are meant for learning and practicing leyning. In PocketTorah, each aliyah of each parashah is displayed separately, along with the related haftarah, and by pressing “play” one can hear it chanted. PocketTrope offers lessons in the cantillations for each set of markings in order to do the leyning.
And let’s visit our friend! Former Beth Shalom Executive Director Hazzan Rob Menes has a site containing not only the Torah and haftarah chanting, but also much liturgical chanting as well. The site is hazzanmenes.info.
There is also the interesting site NusachDB (offtonic.com/nusach/index.html) which offers interesting bits of nusah in addition to miscellany such as the Music of Mauro Braunstein, who is the author of the site.
And of course there is HebCal.com, which calculates calendars, times, parashiyot, and such. And JewishGen.org has a nice page for writing Hebrew dates alphabetically. And My-Hebrew-Name.com has the spelling of common Hebrew and Yiddish names.
There are many such sites, each with its own twist. Learn on!